Meal Plan Week 10 – Leftovers as an Essential Part of Balancing Life

Whew! Things are getting busy around here. Pesach cleaning is in full swing, and I’ll be honest, that means some corners are being cut in other areas of life.

Enter: leftovers.

As a busy mother trying to maintain a work-life balance, I’ve trained my family’s diet into one that utilizes its fair share of leftovers. I won’t necessarily serve the exact same menu ever time, and a new side dish, or configuration of the meal might be offered, but I simply don’t have time to make an entire meal every evening.

Leftovers can be a lifesaver, saving time, money, and sanity. Well, that is if the original dish was one your family liked first-time-round!

With Pesach fast approaching, and less time for cooking, I’ve been pulling out previously cooked dishes as I empty my freezer, and have been cooking in larger quantities to stretch meals beyond one night.

Meal Plan Week 10 – Leftovers and Life’s Balance

Friday night – Gefilte fish, spaghetti and meatballs, green beans, mushroom potato boureka roll, and whole wheat banana chocolate chip cake.

Shabbos lunch – Gefilte fish, Hawaiian wine sauce brisket, strawberry mango romaine salad with honey dijon dressing, mushroom  potato boureka roll, and whole wheat banana chocolate chip cake.

Sunday – Restaurant outing for a family celebration

Monday – Spaghetti and meatballs, green beans

Tuesday – Brisket, mushroom potato boureka roll, peas, and melon

Wednesday – Spaghetti lasagna bake, peas, and melon

Thursday – Homemade bean burritos from the freezer

What are your favorite dishes to make in big batches and serve throughout the week? How do you dress up leftovers so your family will enjoy them? Please share!


Heartache, Heavenly Prayer, and a Birthday

Heartache, Heavenly Prayer, and a Birthday

As I write into this piece, I ask the Good Lord Almighty “Hakadosh Baruch Hu, assist me in acceptance of this life you’ve granted me. This life is a bird’s eye view of brilliance. Far above the peaks of snow capped mountain ranges, and deep down into valleys with their glistening rivers I see Your Finger, gently touching, sculpting. I stop to observe, and yet You encourage me on. “Go!” You whisper. “I have greater plans for you.”

I follow downstream, noticing the gently rushing current of the river. It’s more than I can bear to watch’ movement beyond what I care to endure. It moves, ever more. I run, barefoot along the pebbles, pounding along the gravel. I am out of breath and panting. And yet, You urge me on.

I’ve lost all breath. It catches in my throat, as I sputter, going on. The recent run has tired me, and yet I know I must go on. I look Heavenward, and know there is a plan, an elusive ever destined route. Soft sweet grasses pass beneath my feet, intermingling the rocks, as I continue on, gentle bouts of water spurting from the stream forever moving on.

The waters continue on beside me, as I continue on beyond. Sun glistens below, upon the blades of grass, honeysuckle, milkweed. A gentle lapping upon the shore, and yet, there is no rest – I must continue on, for You urge me to continue on.

My footsteps falter in this tired site of beauty. For how can I continue on? You are right here and beside me, yet You urge me only, on,…on,…on….

“Child, take a step. One, and then. Continue on, beyond. Believe.”

“Climb beyond….”

“Take with you the memories of all you see. Build. Accept. And hold Me dear. I am near. I am always near.”

I continue on. One step, two, “Heavenly Father! Direct me! ASSIST ME! I know that you are here and yet I weep. The exhaustion, how am I to go on, and to sustain? I pray from You, Hashem….”

“Just keep on walking.”

I walk, I climb. I’ve left the beaten path. I see stream is far below. Honeysuckle, tall grasses, blinding skies above, and I climb, for I will climb. The sea beyond, with its great caps.

You Greatness, Your Vastness, Hashem, my Lord, I can’t imagine. You have a plan for me. I sink to my knees. And cry. I pray. Help me to continue on; to know You are directing me.

One more year, I’ll build great things. You’ve helped me to each day.

Meal Plan Week 9 – A Meal Plan Straight from the….Pantry?

Meal Plan Week 9 - A meal Plan Straight from the Pantry

With Pesach creeping up fast, I’ve finally begun going the annual “spring cleaning” that accompanies Pesach cleaning. Perhaps it’s the mindset of the “keep or toss,” and perhaps it’s the lack of extra time to come up with creative dishes, but this week’s meal plan is all about pantry living, and loving.

Have i mentioned I love having a pantry? Growing up my mother’s pantry wasn’t just a cupboard, and even a closet. It was shelves and shelves of stocked up non-perishables. Neighbors and friends would joke with her about whose door would be knocked on first in case of natural disaster and a food crisis. Deals were carefully sought out, containers sealed against possible intruders, and you could find anything you needed.

So naturally, an Ikea bookshelf turned cabinet was one of m first purchases as a newlywed, and it became my pantry. Years later, I’m still appreciating that stock, honing and revamping systems within.

Now, before Pesach, it all comes out – every food in there, as I check expiry dates, and try to use up what chametz I can before the chag. It’s time to use it all up.  And so I bring you….

Meal Plan Week 9 – Pre-Pesach, Pantry Planning (Yes, I’m guilty as a shameless alliterator! :) )

Shabbos Dinner – Chicken soup, veggie packed meat sauce (both from the freezer), ruce pilaf (pantry), green beans, beets, birthday cake!

Shabbos lunch – invited out

Sunday – Leftover rice pilaf (pantry), green beans, and beets.

Monday – Noodles with baked beans (pantry), peas.

Tuesday – Homemade mac and cheese casserole (pantry) – by special request of the little guy, and sliced cucumber, with cantaloupe for dessert.

Wednesday – Lentil soup (finally used up my pantry stock of ageless lentils!), and paprikash potatoes with hotdogs (stay tuned for The Only Dish I Buy Hotdogs for).

Thursday – Lentil soup and mac and cheese casserole.

What system do you have for ensuring pantry items are used up on a consistent basis? Please share in the comments below!


CLEAN FOR PESACH AND ENJOY THE SEDER! by Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l

This article was released a number of years ago, and has been reprinted time and again since that date. It lends perspective, and a concrete halachic parameter on what energies we’re required to expend in concurrence with the chag. Please share this with anyone who would benefit.

Edited By Rabbi Moshe Finkelstein Kiryat Mattersdorf, Jerusalem
Pesach 5765
Print Version

These notes are based on the responsa of Moreinu veRabbeinu HaGaon HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, rosh yeshivas Torah Ore, to questions posed by women attending his regular talks. They have been compiled by a group of his students. The notes also include Hebrew sources and footnotes, which are not reproduced here.


In former times, wealthy people who had large houses also had many servants who did their bidding, while poor people, who could not afford servants, lived in small homes with one or two rooms. Understandably, the pre-Passover chores of the rich were performed by the servants, while the poor, who had only their one or two rooms to clean, a few pieces of furniture, a minimum of utensils, and some clothing, took care of their needs themselves.

In those days, cleaning was hard. Tables were made of raw wood, requiring them to be scrubbed or even to be shaven to ensure that no pieces of food were hidden in the cracks. Earthen or wooden floors also needed to be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed.

Today, we seem to be caught in a trap. The average modern home is larger than formerly. Furniture, utensils and clothing are much more plentiful. The average home today can compare with the more affluent homes of previous generations. However, we do not have the servants that they had, so that today, all the chores fall on the woman of the home. At the same time she still feels obligated to clean and scrub as they did formerly, even though she has laminated furniture and tiled floors, making this type of cleaning unnecessary.

As a result of this, the pressure of pre-Pesach cleaning has reached unnecessary and overwhelming levels. The housewife often becomes overly nervous, unable to enjoy the holiday joy of Passover and unable to perform the mitzvos and obligations of the Seder night.


Passover, like every other yom tov, must be enjoyed by every member of the family, including women. This is an obligation clearly defined in the Torah as explained by our Sages. We can understand a person dreading Tisha B’Av but Pesach is to be looked forward to and anticipated with joy. Every woman should be well rested, relaxed and alert at the Seder table so that she can fulfill all the Torah and Rabbinic obligations and follow the Haggadah with the rest of the family. Clearly, the performance of her pre- Passover duties must be balanced against her Passover obligations.

Pre-Passover cleaning is required to avoid the danger of transgressing any Torah or Rabbinic prohibition of having chometz in the house on Pesach. It is evident from the responsa of the Rosh Hayeshiva shlita that this need not be excessive.

It is not the intention here to abolish traditions which have been passed down by Klal Yisroel from generation to generation. Nevertheless, some practices adopted by women in the Passover cleaning today are not an actual continuation of the old traditions. For example, if a person does not sell his chometz, of course it is necessary to check his utensils and to wash off any chometz left on them, or to render the chometz inedible. But if the chometz is sold, then washing the pots, pans and dishes which are going to be locked away is not necessary.

One might be tempted to insist on doing the extra work anyway — to be machmir (stringent). However, in these stringencies lies the grave danger of causing many laxities and brushing aside many mitzvohs completely, including Torah and Rabbinic obligations which women are required to do on Passover and particularly during the Seder.

Many women like to do more “cleaning” than the bare minimum, to such an extent, that some even incorporate their general “spring cleaning” into their required pre-Passover chores. These extra exertions should not prevent them from fulfilling their obligations on Passover, and particularly on the Seder night.


A. All property and possessions must be cleaned and checked to make sure that they are free of all chometz, except in the following cases: B. If, during the year, chometz is not brought into a place, that place does not have to be cleaned out or checked for chometz. C. Any article which is not used on Pesach does not need to be checked for chometz, provided it is put away properly and the chometz in it is sold. D. Crumbs which have been rendered completely inedible [C.J. Weisberg explains: by coating with small amount of household cleaner] to the extent that they are not fit to be eaten by a dog are not considered chometz. E. The general obligation to check for and destroy crumbs does not apply if the crumbs are less than the size of an olive (kezayis) and are dirty or spoiled enough to prevent a person from eating them. F. The household cleaner (mentioned below) used must spoil the crumbs slightly to the extent that people would refrain from eating them. G. It is customary that any item to be kashered should not be used for 24 hours prior to kashering, in order that it should not be a ben- yomo.


1) CLOTHING CLOSETS: If there is some significant possibility that chometz went into them, they should be checked for fully edible crumbs of chometz, besides large pieces of chometz.If the probability that chometz entered these places is remote, a rav can be consulted to clarify the conditions under which they do not have to be checked. This includes chests, dressers, basements, and all other similar places (see General Note E).

2) FLOORS: We don’t have earthen floors with deep cracks in them. It is sufficient for tiled or covered floors to be swept and washed with a household floor cleaner. Cracks and spaces between tiles do not have to be checked if the cleaning solution reaches into them.

3) FOOD CABINETS: If the cabinet is not going to be used on Passover, then you just have to lock it or seal it in a manner that will remind you not to use it on Passover and sell it with the chometz (see General Notes C & E ). If the cabinet is going to be used on Pesach, take out all the food and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. Be sure the cleansing agent reaches into all the cracks and soaks into any crumbs that might be left there. The usual practice is to line the cabinets.

4) REFRIGERATOR: Take the food out, and wash it with a rag soaked in a household cleaner. The racks are usually covered. (It is advisable to leave holes for air circulation.)

5) KASHERING SINKS: Clean the sinks (see General Note G), and pour a kettle of boiling water into them and on their sides. Some people pour hot water mixed with bleach down the drain. The usual practice today is to use an insert, or line the sinks (e.g. aluminum foil, contact paper). If not difficult, this practice should be followed.

6) FAUCETS (TAPS): Cleaning, without any other kashering procedure, is sufficient.

7) MARBLE AND STAINLESS STEEL COUNTERS: If they were used for hot chometz they should first be cleaned well. They should either be completely covered so that nothing Pesach’dik touches them or (if it will not ruin the countertop) pour boiling hot water on them (see General Note G). Many people do both.

8 TABLETOPS: Wash them with a household cleaner. The usual practice is to cover the tables.

9) KASHERING RANGE/OVEN/STOVE-TOP: Wash the top and side surface areas with a rag soaked in a strong household cleaner. Clean the knobs well. Grates can be kashered by first cleaning them well (see General Note G), then put them back on the stove, and then lighting all the burners, raising them to their maximum heat, putting on a blech while the burners are on. This spreads the heat over the whole top and intensifies the heat on the grates. Let it burn for 5 – 10 minutes. [Be careful that the knobs don’t melt.] After kashering, the usual practice today is to cover the stove-top with aluminum foil (being extremely careful not to block the air inlets around the burners and on the back of the stove, as this could create poisonous fumes in the room).

* OVEN: If you want to use the oven: (a) First clean the oven well with an oven cleaner (e.g. Easy-Off). Make sure that it reaches into all the cracks and around the screws. (After using the oven cleaner, there is no need for further cleaning). (see General Note G). Then heat the inside of the oven by turning the oven on to its highest temperature for about one hour. (b) If your oven has a turbo option (a fan which circulates the heat ), consult a rav about your particular type. (c) After kashering, if the oven door has a glass window, preferably cover the entire inside of the door with aluminum foil. (d) If a closed oven insert is available, this would be preferable. In this case, only washing and cleaning are necessary. (e) Do not use the chometz-dik oven racks for Pesach. If this is difficult, then one can kasher the racks with the same procedure as for the oven, placing them as close as possible to the heating element.

If the oven is not going to be used: None of the above is necessary. Just make certain that there is no edible chometz inside, tape it closed well and see below #10.

10) POTS, PANS, DISHES, & SILVERWARE (CUTLERY): Whatever is not going to be used for Pesach should either be locked up, or put away and sealed in a manner which will remind you not to use them on Pesach. If there is a possibility of actual chometz in them, the chometz should be sold (see General Note C.). If you do not sell chometz, then they should be either washed or soaked in a household cleaner; it is not necessary to scrub them.(Concerning kashering utensils for Pesach consult a rav.)

11) FOOD PROCESSOR/MIXER: A rav should be consulted.

12) DISH TOWELS: If one does not have a Pesach’dik set of dish towels, then one’s regular dish towels may be used if they are washed with a detergent and no food remains attached to them. (It is customary to have a set of Pesach’dik dish towels.)

13) PESACH TABLECLOTHS: These can be ironed with the same iron as is used during the rest of the year.

14) CLOTHES, BLANKETS, POCKETS, ETC.: If they have been washed in detergent or dry cleaned, then there is no need for them to be checked (see General Note E). Otherwise they need to be cleaned and checked thoroughly by brushing or shaking them out well. However, if there is a possibility of crumbs between the stitches or in a hidden crevice which cannot be shaken out, then they must be wiped with a rag which has been soaked in a detergent. Clothes which will not be worn on Pesach do not have to be checked, but they should be put away and the chometz in them sold (see General Notes C. and Sec. 10 on Pots and Pans).

15) SIDDURIM, BENCHERS, SEFORIM, BOOKS: If there is a chance that they contain chometz, then they should either be put away and sold with other chometz utensils (see General Notes C.), or cleaned and checked well.

16) TOYS: If there is edible chometz, then it should be either removed, or rendered inedible (see General Notes E). There is no need to scrub them.

17) TECHINA & OTHER KITNIYOS (legumes): May be used after the house has been cleaned for Pesach. They should not be cooked in utensils that will be used on Pesach, and certainly not on Pesach itself (according to the Ashkenaz minhag).

20) LAST MINUTE PREPARATIONS: For example, setting the table, etc., should be completed early enough in the day, so that you will be able to rest a little bit. Be ready to start the seder immediately after ma’ariv, to ensure that the children won’t fall asleep at the Seder.

21) ENJOY PESACH! Try to make the Pesach chores easy for yourself. Don’t do unnecessary hard work. Don’t do unnecessary cleaning. You can be like a Queen and you must enjoy your Pesach!

Reprinted from All Rights Reserved. Revised Edition. Permission is given to reprint for non-sale purposes only.

10 Adar, 5762. Jerusalem, Israel

How to Make Pesach for the First Time

I remember my first experience making Pesach. It was relatively early in my motherhood journey, with a one year old in tow when at the time my husband asked if we could make Pesach at home rather than having to go out for all of our meals. And let me tell you, I did NOT feel prepared to make Pesach for the first time. After some discussion however, we had come to the decision to move forward, and went for it, full steam ahead.

Well let me tell you, in five years of making Pesach since then, I’ve learned a few things. Each year has brought with it vastly different circumstances, from being in full time school, through internships, work, unemployment and the opportunity to be a full time stay at home mom. I’ve hosted, and made my first seder. Through trial and error, I’ve forked the process through, spoken to more seasoned balabustas, and simplified the process.

And now I’m going to share my tips with you. Ready? OK, let’s go!

1.   Pace Yourself

This is key. As a first time Pesach planner, you want to make sure that you’re not taking on more than is physically, mentally and financially feasible. Begin with the basics, and build from there, year after year. There is no rush to ‘do it all’ your first year. Initially, you want to focus on essentials.

2.   Differentiate Between Halacha (Necessities), and Chumra (Stringencies)

Do some research on your local kashrus certification organization’s website as to what preparations are necessary, and what are considered stringencies, and then speak with your rabbi to determine which stringencies are or are not appropriate to take on at this point. Many kashrus agencies publish an annual Passover guide, detailing how to clean your home and how to kasher your kitchen for Pesach, as well as what items and ingredients necessitate a specific Kosher l’Pesach hechsher.

3.   Keep Your Rabbi’s Phone Number Handy

Our teachers taught us in grade school: there is no such thing as a foolish question. Same goes for halachic shailos. Yes, Pesach is one of the busiest times of the year for our rabbis. However, they’re used to it and expect our phone calls. PLEASE don’t feel that only a man can call in a halachic question – find a rav with whom you feel comfortable communicating so that you can ask these shailos yourself. On a practical level, it’s also fantastically helpful having a rebbetzin or another woman whom you feel comfortable calling, who’s been through the process many times previously.

A tip for keeping on top of shailos as they arise in your kashering process, is to have a notebook in which to write them down. This helps in two ways. First, you can wait to call them in until you’ve compiled a number of questions rather than trying to reach your rabbi multiple times in one day (and even so you may end up doing so!). Second, you’ll have a record from year to year of the questions you’ve had answered previously, so that you don’t unnecessarily have to make repeat calls.

4.  Enlist Help

Whether it’s a spouse, a relative, friend, or cleaner, enlist help. Cleaning for Pesach and kashering a kitchen for the first time is a big job. Go into the process with help.

5.   Create a List of Kitchenware You’ll Need to Purchase

In this article rather than going over what items you’ll need to purchase, I’ll give you general ideas to guide you. Remember to stick to the basics. Know how you’ll be using your kitchen over Pesach, whether for cooking for crowds, cooking for your family, or just eating over chol hamoed, or going all out and making sedarim. Then break this down into lists of cookware, servingware, eating, food storage, and any small appliances.

Next, work out which items you must purchase this year, and which you can hold off on. Alternatives to purchasing these items all at once in your first year include:

  • Buying of a lesser quality than you would for during the year – The expense of purchasing items for a first Pesach can be staggering. To keep costs down, pick up items at dollar stores, or discount stores like Walmart or Target. My Pesach meat dishes, six years in, are still this set of nice white Corelle Dishes – the added plus being that in turning over the kitchen, they’re a relatively lightweight material, and are very difficult to break in the shuffle. Remember, it’s only one week that these dishes are being used. Initially, go for pieces that are classic, practical, and won’t break the bank. You can always upgrade in later years. Another example is my trusty $10 hand mixer – no need to buy a stand mixer for all those egg white cakes and mousses, they’ll whip up just fine with this lower cost alternative. Food processor? Grater, like in the good ol’ days. You get the picture.
  • Pulling out your wedding and engagement gifts that you didn’t end up using for everyday – When I got married, I received about four sets of Pyrex dishes, as well as multiple kiddush cups, havdalah sets, and serving platters that weren’t necessary for use during the year. These were put away, and are now part of my Pesach collection.
  • Kashering – Many metal items can be kashered, including cutlery, pots and pans, kiddush cups, and others, though the process of kashering can be somewhat time consuming. and may require the harsh scouring of the items in question.
  • Using Disposable – Aluminum baking pans, and plasticware can make a huge difference to the ease of a hectic yom tov. Even those who try to limit their use during the year will find that Pesach may be the time to compromise.

* Remember to schedule time to tovel all of your new items. *

5.5   Create a List of Kitchenware You’ll Want to Purchase After Pesach, for Next Pesach

Yup, you read that right. I called this bullet 5.5 because it comes in conjunction with the one above. Now’s the time to start creating that list. This will be the springboard for your sale scavenging. The boxing week after I made my first Pesach, I purchased a meat set of pots at approximately 60% off their original value. As I wrote above. Build your collection of Pesach kitchenware slowly, saving on the initial costs, and more importantly, saving money altogether. Start the list now so you don’t forget what items you wanted after Pesach is finished for the year.

6.   Create a Plan for What Materials to Use in Converting Your Kitchen / Dining Room

This process will differ for every family. You’ll want to work out where to store your Pesach ingredients and dishware, and whether, and where to, you’ll be dispacing any chametz alternatives.

Next you’ll need to figure out how you’ll be covering surfaces. To cover counters, many families choose to use one or more of the following: corrugated plastic sheets (very inexpensive, available at most hardware stores, and easy to cut with a utility knife), custom cut plexi glass sheets (more high end), disposable plastic tableclothes (thicker vinyl ones are advisable so as not to rip, available at dollar stores), or simply heavy duty aluminium foil. You’ll also need to decide how to line fridge shelves, cabinet shelves, sinks, stoves, and ovens, if this is your minhag.

7.  Build Yourself a Cleaning Calendar

Again, this will differ drastically as per your family and home’s physical layout. As early as you can prior to Pesach, working backwards from seder night, begin marking down deadlines for cleaning rooms or sections of your home. For some practical advice and good perspective on simplifying the process, check out Ruchi Koval’s article How to Clean for Pesach in One Day. When it comes down to it, once again remember that dust is not chametz. Refer to this article written a number of years ago entitled How to Clean for Pesach and Enjoy the Seder based on responsa given by Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l on what circumstances necessitate cleaning, and which do not.

8.   Create a Meal Plan and Ingredient List

As well as you’re able, create a detailed menu as to what you’ll cook when, and what ingredients will be needed. Keep it simple as Pesach items are considerably more expensive than their year round counterparts. Create a space in your house, ie a plastic bin, or a designated cabinet shelf to store your purchased items if doing so before turning over the kitchen.

9.   Create a Game Plan for Actually Turning Over Your Kitchen, and then Do It!

Take two days, with no children in the vicinity (this can mean sleeping), and just go at it. Put in the elbow grease, enlist someone to help if necessary, and get the entire job done. When it comes to it, it’s not as daunting as it seems.

10. Treat Yourself

After all the hard work you’ve done, go out and take some time to relax. You’ve worked hard and accomplished a significant task, and deserve some rest and relaxation before going into yom tov.

Do you have further tips to share? Questions to raise? Please comment below to start gain from one another’s ideas!

Meal Plan Week 8 – Using Up Our Chametz

Meal Plan Week 8 - Using Up Our Chametz

Well, Purim’s passed, and it was a whirlwind; a beautiful whirlwind of food, family, and fun. Best food related part? I didn’t have to cook extra for Shabbos this week (just popped a gefilte fish in the oven)! And now, merely days after Purim, here’s a little peak inside the first steps of my annual Pesach prep. It isn’t exactly kneeling on the floor type cleaning – got to allow for some transition – but it’s the annual first step.

Sitting down towards the end of Purim, I set out to sort the mishloach manos that have generously been delivered to our family. After sorting for degrees of healthy / unhealth food items, I begin our annual “chametz gamur” box. A cardboard box that remains by the pantry door from Purim until shortly before Pesach. We traditionally do not sell “real” chametz, ie pretzels, pasta, etc, but rather use it up or deliver it to local food drives prior to the start of the chag. In this vein, I suggest all gluten free readers perhaps brace themselves the next coming four weeks as we purge our house of pasta and clean out the freezer. Carb lovers? Join me :)

Week 8 Meal Plan

Friday night: Chicken soup, gefilte fish, quinoa, green beans.

Shabbos lunch: Gefilte fish, dijon ribs, squash pie, roasted baby potatoes, salad, mushroom zucchini muffins, fruit salad.

Sunday: Dijon ribs, squash pie, mushroom zucchini muffins, roasted baby potatoes.

Monday: Tomato soup, elbow pasta, and breaded fillet of sole, and steamed peas.

Tuesday: Breakfast burritos for dinner :)

Wednesday: Tomato soup, and grilled cheese, sliced veggies.

Thursday: Pancakes, cottage cheese, sliced veggies.

What’s on your menu this week? Interesting ideas for using up your chametz? Please share below!

Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Post Purim Notes for Next Year

Sitting down at the computer now, it’s been a busy and beautiful day. One aspect of this blogging platform that I’m particularly enjoying and coming to appreciate is the journaling aspect of jotting down my thoughts and knowing they’ll be there to reference in future years, to grow and to learn from. After each chag, we have those recurring thoughts regarding what went well, and what we’d like to remember for next year. Well, here’s my report. Perhaps it’ll enlighten more readers than only myself.

1.     First Thoughts

Aka, my gut reaction. Purim this year was beautiful. The mishloach manos were delivered, cards sent, megilla heard, matanos l’evyonim given, and seuda had. However, I. Did. Too. Much. Purim is a time with so much potential. We can involve our young children in the preparations, affording them a deeper appreciation of what each mitzva symbolizes. However, in today’s age of social media, where so many of us are looking at others’ themes and family costumes on facebook, pinterest, or instagram, or even just passing on the street while wishing one another a “Freilachem Purim,” we’ve got to get back to basic. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have themes. I’ll continue to do so as it makes the preparations even more exciting in our house. However, I’ll scale it back im yirtze Hashem next year so that we can focus on what’s important; our relationships with Hashem, with each other, and with ourselves. Lesson 1: Tone down the details – it doesn’t have to be perfect.

2.     Choosing My Kids’ Costumes

This year, while on vacation I found the cutest costume for my son. It was great, it was perfect, and it was all Boy. However, I knew our theme had been chosen for the wrong reasons when my son was at shul, saw someone dressed as a clown, and said “I wish I were dressed up as a clown.” Puzzled, I reminded him that we’d had a clown costume that would have been just his size this year. He answered me saying “I didn’t know that was an option.” Lesson 2: Let the kids choose their own costumes – it’s their fun. Don’t get me wrong, he enjoyed and had a good time in his costume, but we have to realize that as our little ones get older, kids must be able to express their identities through their own imaginations and ambitions – and on Purim, the costume is their form of expression.

Another aspect of the costume thought process that I’ve noticed in recent years, is that (at least the little ones) are being asked to bring their costumes into school on Taanis Esther. Particularly on years when I’ve put a fair bit of DIY effort into a costume, I’m hesitant to send it in knowing that it may get dirty of damaged before Purim. In lieu of this, I pull out a dress up costume from the dollar store that my little one can wear to school that day. saving his real costume for Purim itself.

3.    Planning Ahead

I’ll write down the following deadlines now, so that perhaps I might remember for next year.

  • Rosh Chodesh Shvat – Have a theme chosen.
  • One week into Shvat – Place eBay orders (I’ve become a huge fan of ordering aspects of costumes extremely inexpensively on ebay. However these can often take more than a month to ship.).
  • Rosh Chodesh Adar – Have a list of card mishloach manos / card recipients completed so I’m ready to go shopping and place card orders. Have all DIY costumes DONE. Take pictures in full costumes if using for mishloach manos labels / notes.
  • 7th of Adar – Have cards filled out, stamped and sealed, ready to mail. Mishloach maos shopping should be completed (possible exceptions if food items might spoil). Have mishloach manos labels / notes designed and printed. Have seuda menu completed. Have all seuda decor bought, including paper / plastic goods.
  • 12th of Adar – Have mishloach manos packed, and ready to go. IF making real food MMs that need to be assembled last minute, purchase easy to close packaging with no fumbling, tying, or curling aspects. Open gift bags are ideal.

 Lesson 3: Plan ahead, and stick to the plan. In short, I may or may not actually stick to these by the book next year, because life happens. But I do know that I’m going to try my best. There’s got to be a game plan. A game plan was soarly missing this year, and I felt it in my exhaustion leading up to Purim.

4.     Mishloach Manos

So many lessons here. Lesson 4: Buy open top bags (gift bags) if giving real food MMs so that they can be assembled in advance with the fresh food component just being popped in easily on Purim morning. Lesson 5: If making a seuda, cut down recipient list to the bare bones, and send cards instead. Between the cost, time management of making mishloach manos, and then delivering, in addition to making a seuda, something’s got to give. If you’ve got the time, go for it, however if life is particularly busy (and whose isn’t) it’s fine to cut down. Lesson 6: Keep them simple. Lesson 7: Skip the homemade themed baking projects. There’s a good chance they’ll end up not being eaten, and are extremely time consuming. Lesson 8: Remember that we’re meant to spend more on matanos l’evyonim than on mishloach manos – keep priorities in check.

5.     Seuda

OK here I declare an unabashed WIN. I pre-cooked and stored foods in the freezer and was able to meal plan with detailed ingredient lists. More importantly however, I finally convinced myself that I had cooked enough food (Jewish mother syndrome anyone?). Lesson 9: Know when to stop cooking. Ask yourself: is this appetizer necessary? The decor side of things, well, that could have been done earlier. I’m going to give myself breathing space on this one, because had misshloach manos been simplified (see lesson 5 above) decor would have been done much earlier. One aspect of expansion I would like to consider for next year is to Lesson 10: Consider inviting non family members who may need a seuda. There are so many people out there, whether a single parent or simply a single man or woman, or maybe an older couple whose children have moved away, and would appreciate an invitation.

6.    Matanos L’evyonim

This is simply an idea I’d like to share because I love having one less ‘to do’ on my task list for Purim. Lesson 11: Find out if you can prearrange matanos l’evyonim donations. My shul has established a set-up whereby members arrange for our rav to be a shliach of our money, and it’s all arranged before Purim so that I know there’s one less task to be done on this busy day.

7.    Megilla

I really, I mean really like the shul where I heard megilla last night, however it was a very family oriented minyan, which meant there were many stalls in the leining waiting for kids to quiet down, which meant we got home late, which meant my little one was very tired today. In future years, I’m going to reread this post and be reminded to Lesson 12: Attend a leining that’s quick, and quiet if there is one available – again, this applies especially if planning a seuda in our home.

……Till next year!

What lessons did you learn this year’s experience that you’d love to share? Please comment below!